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Black And White Morality / Literature

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  • In Avalon: Web of Magic, villains are always Obviously Evil (think excessive shadows, gloating, and poisonous magic)- unless disguising themselves- and trying to achieve inarguably selfish goals through crimes of the first degree (murder, thievery, brainwashing). Is it realistic? No. But it's fun. That said, the heroines are frequently tempted to do things they know are Evil (that's how the series' villains became villains to begin with), and their friendship is important in part because it keeps them morally grounded.
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  • The Chronicles of Narnia feature this. Aslan and all he stands for are good, his enemies are evil, and anyone caught in between who isn't clearly either when introduced simply hasn't chosen their side yet (or, worse, is already evil and just lying about it — Nikabrik the dwarf in Prince Caspian for example could be read either way).
  • The Crimson Shadow: There is basically no ambiguity in the sides during the series. On the good side are people rebelling to be free against evil wizards with a wholly evil race as their minions. At worst, good guys Luthien and Oliver work as thieves, but even then their only victims are exploitative collaborating merchants. On the bad guys' side, there is a single female mage who's just misguided rather than purely evil.
  • Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series. The American/Lemurian alliance is good, the Grik and any Lemurians or humans who don't support the alliance are bad.
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  • The Discworld books, despite its comedy and acknowledging the complexity of life, ultimately sees things in this light. The motif comes closest to the surface in Carpe Jugulum when Granny Weatherwax explains her life philosophy: evil is when you treat people like things. That's as simple as it gets to her; if you treat people like people, even if you're nasty about it, you're ultimately 'white that got grubby', and not black. This dichotomy runs through most of the books as well, with the difference between the heroes and the villains ultimately being that villains are the ones who can view life — and the abusing and ending of it — as simply a means to an end, while the heroes will treat people, even the villains, ultimately as ends in and of themselves.
  • The Dresden Files both follows and averts this.
    • This series and main character clearly believe in right and wrong with committing certain actions like one human murdering another with magic strengthen the forces of evil and certain creatures like Fallen Angels and Red Court Vampires objectively evil.
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    • Averted in that wizards and muggles are, after all, human and have Free Will, and have difficulty knowing the right action. As a reformed murderer-by-magic, he knows one bad action won't necessarily condemn a soul to being evil.
    • Many supernatural creatures like the Winter Fae, while evil by human standards, operate by Blue and Orange Morality and are not considered objectively evil.
    • It can be hard to remember that in the earlier books, the fights between literal agents of Heaven and Hell were much more commonplace. The books also imply (by way of Sanya) that angels and the like aren't really Good of themselves, but rather its their actions that make them Good, and that they'd still be Good if you replaced "angel" with "superpowerful aliens that look like angels". Despite that, even angels can be harsh and militaristic, with job descriptions such as "general" and "spook". Very evil is still evil and depraved, though. However, this is fairly true to the source material, and fits the Dresdenverse quite adroitly.
    • Uriel does invoke this, assuring Harry that the Archangel likes Star Wars over Star Trek because of this trope, and because it makes him "feel young". Despite the fact that "Mr. Sunshine" existed since before Creation, given the way that the superpowerful beings of the Dresdenverse interact with time, this is a slightly bizarre statement.
    • One particular entity born from evil is not condemned to never change. The Shadow of Lasciel, a Fallen Angel, resided inside Harry's mind for several years with his continued refusal to take up her coin. Originally she is just a carbon copy of the ancient and powerful fallen, but years of existing in Harry's malleable mind began changing her. When Harry finally nicknames her as "Lash" he inadvertently gifted her with a bit of his soul and gave her Free Will, making her realize she is now truly distinct from Lasciel and should Harry take up the coin, it would mean her "death" when the true fallen takes up residence. Lash chooses to sacrifice her existence to save Harry from a powerful psychic attack.
  • Harry Potter starts out this way. Dumbledore is the Big Good, Harry and his friends are the heroes, the other students are generally nice except for the Slytherins, and Voldemort is the Big Bad. As the series goes on, it adds more shades of gray with turncoats on both sides, a corrupt government opposing Voldemort, heroes paying evil unto evil, and Harry discovering that his father and Dumbledore have... complicated backstories. It's still essentially a "Good Guys vs Bad Guys" story, with villains clearly inspired by WWII, and the hero and his two best friends who go through the whole story, including a civil war, without killing anyone ever.
  • Inheritance Cycle: The Varden and Elves are good, The Empire is evil. Eragon tries to give this a significant amount of thought, as a number of characters point out that he's fighting because other people told him to, however right they may be. After a significant amount of angst, Eragon comes to the bizarre and defeatist conclusion that he has to cross the ocean to train the next generation of riders. He left behind civilization, everything he fought for, the chance to shape the creation of the next major golden age, and the chance to get into Arya's (the only woman for whom he could hold genuine affection) tight leather pants.
  • The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, broadly speaking. The respective villains Sauron, Saruman and Morgoth are evil, and those who oppose them are good. On a closer level this is not so clear-cut - Sauron, Saruman and Morgoth's Orcs are Always Chaotic Evil, but their human forces are not, which is lost on many a critic. More than one character notes how they must be manipulated or forced to do their will.
    • The Silmarillion in particular tends to be white, grey and black. (Surely people like Fëanor, his sons, the Noldor in general, Thingol, Túrin, etc. cannot be thought of as all black or all white.)
    • Outside of The Silmarillion there are many other examples. Gollum, Lobelia and Denethor (in the book, the movie plays him as more of a straightforward villain) are anything but clean-cut good or bad guys. Despite its lighter tone, The Hobbit averts this a lot more than its darker sequel. Thorin is for the most part noble but also a greedy, proud jerkass who would risk a war to hang onto his gold, while Beorn is kind and friendly but kills an Orc and his Wolf mount after they already surrendered and puts their heads on pikes.
    • Indeed, it would probably be best to say that Middle-Earth has Black-and-White Morality, but only as extremes- Eru and the Valar are pure good; Morgoth and his directly corrupted minions are pure evil; most of the non-divine characters lean strongly one way or the other, but aren't "pure". This ties in to temptation being a major theme of LOTR in particular.
    • Averted in The Children of Húrin. Túrin is well-meaning but also a morally ambiguous Jerkass who murders a lame man in cold blood, his Lancer Androg is a serial rapist and murderer and the group's traitor, Mîm the Dwarf is a sympathetic Anti-Villain whose actions are motivated by the relentless persecution his people suffered from the Elves as well as Androg's cruelty. Even after his betrayal he inists that Túrin be released unharmed.
  • Stieg Larsson's The Millennium Trilogy, like the works of the aforementioned Spillane, is a rather dark tale of good versus evil: the heroes are all noble and well-intentioned, and the villains are all pure evil.
  • Catherine firmly believes this in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. She grows wiser.
  • Redwall: If you're a mouse, otter, vole, badger, hedgehog, squirrel, or lapine, you're good. If you're anything else, you're evil. (Except for cats and birds - they're case-by-case. Voles can also go either way.) If you're a fish, you're dinner.
    • The Sparra, being a Wacky Wayside Tribe, have both decent types and feathered fiends and often tend towards neutral in the conflict.
    • There were a few exceptions-one sea rat was nice, and horrified by his captain's evil deeds, and one shrew murdered his chieftain, then took off with the sword of Martin the Warrior. And even then it only averted the species stereotypes, otherwise remaining black and white.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Almost all the good guys are handsome/beautiful, and the bad guys are either ugly as sin or ordinary-looking. The choices the characters make are unambiguously good or evil. The characterization of the characters is either good or evil.
  • The page quote comes from A Song of Ice and Fire, which actually averts this as a series; the setting is rife with Gray and Grey Morality. The speaker, however, believes fervently in this. Just to drive the point home, a book later one character is handed an onion, half of which is black with rot... and he cuts off the rotten bit and gladly eats the rest. Apparently Melisandre's never faced a famine.
  • Sword of Truth: The heroes are good and noble, and always right, while the villains all Kick the Dog like they're in an international dog-kicking competition.
  • The Symphony of Ages series: Rhapsody and those who love her: Good. Those who don't love Rhapsody: Evil.
    • Except for Michael has got the hots for Rhapsody and is evil.
  • In the Tortall Universe, it's true that expressing any disdain for peasants is a clear sign that someone's a villain. In the first quartet, Song of the Lioness, you can tell who's good and who's bad by how friendly they are to Alanna. The rigidness starts to loosen in Protector of the Small (with some I Did What I Had to Do situations), the hero of the Trickster's Duet is a spymaster who gets her hands in all kinds of Dirty Business, and the Beka Cooper books have a kind of light-gray-and-black morality thanks to Police Brutality and The Needs of the Many — while Beka and her friends always try to do the most right thing they can, they face institutional limits.
  • William S. Lind, author of Victoria seems to think this way. You either support Retroculture and the Ten Commandments, or you're a 'Cultural Marxist' out to tear down Western Civilization from within.
  • Villains by Necessity: Discussed and averted. Robin is astonished that the villains don't fit many of the stereotypes, as they can still be kind and work together. They explain that an evil person can do good things, and vice versa, while most acts can be done by both, with different motives. Moreover, there are many cases where an act is ambiguous. Killing is wrong, he agrees, yet the forces of Good try to kill the villains. Sam killed a man trying to rape a woman, so was that good for saving her, or bad for killing him? He concludes that whether or not its Good, their cause is right.
  • Deconstructed in Warrior Cats. Hollyleaf starts out with her absolute trust in the Warrior Code, and believes that all who follow it are good, while those who don't are evil. After using the code to justify most of her actions, she learns that her very birth broke the code, and that someone she had respected had broken one of the code's core principles, but for a good reason. After learning this, Hollyleaf's mind was completely shattered, and she realized that her morality was flawed, leading her to attempt to murder her own mother, then flee from the Clans.
    • Warrior Cats is at first an example of Grey and Gray Morality with ThunderClan and ShadowClan each having their good warriors (Firestar, Graystripe, and Yellowfang come to mind) and their bad warriors (Brokenstar, Tigerstar, and Darkstripe) but in the fourth series... Black-and-White Morality is in effect as the Clans go against The Dark Forest cats who are indeed evil. Also in effect during the fight with Blood Clan who are (with few exceptions) very black.
  • Also deconstructed in A Wizard in Rhyme when a college student gets transported into a Fantasy Counterpart Culture version of France, where God and Satan are very real, saying damn really means you are sending said person to hell, and magic works on this principle. Being from our world, the rigid code causes a lot of problems as he adjusts.


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